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inforMATIon Blog

The MATI blog features articles pertaining to translation and interpretation. Subject matter includes issues pertaining to the field in the form of explorations into language, methodology and technology, book reviews, biographies, notes on presenters and meeting summaries. The views, opinions and statements expressed within each posting do not necessarily reflect the position of MATI as a whole.
  • 08/10/2016 9:17 AM | Meghan Konkol

    Some Fundamentals of Project Management

    By Alaina Brantner, MATI Member

    My professional experience as a project manager includes positions at three translation firms of varying organizational maturity. In those positions, not only have I managed projects of varying complexity in over sixty languages, I’ve also had the opportunity to model my own work as a project manager off of the strategies of some amazing professionals. Below I share a few of the fundamental skills and practices I have seen implemented consistently by the successful project managers with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work.

    Knowing Your Partners

    While collaborating with colleagues from around the globe is one very exciting and rewarding component of the job, the need to know as much as possible about one’s partners is compounded by a work environment in which collaboration takes place almost exclusively online. For example, if you send a translator in Japan a file format with which they cannot work, you’ll likely lose an entire working day coordinating to get them the correct format due to time zone differences. In an industry in which turnarounds of yesterday can be the norm, proactively establishing project parameters around knowledge of a translator’s programs, capacity, location, etc. is therefore one way to ensure smooth project launches.

    Overall, the information that seasoned project managers endeavor to know about their translators includes location (time zone) and contact details (i.e. landline, cell, Skype, Whatsapp, or other messenger IDs—the more the better); operating systems and CAT tools; specializations, degrees, and certifications; other commitments and capacity, in addition to general knowledge of the translator’s strengths and weaknesses.

    On top of knowing this information about each of the translators with whom they work, as they become more experienced, project managers also become more and more aware of factors affecting the language pairs with which they regularly work as a whole. This includes things like periods in which availability in certain language pairs will be greatly diminished due to vacation trends and national holidays, cost of living in target markets and its effect on language costs, degree equivalencies between target and source markets, etc. Building this kind of working knowledge on individuals and cultures is an ongoing process, so above all, project managers develop and rely on a network of colleagues and a repository of resources to which they can turn for all sorts of on-the-fly answers to language questions.

    Since project management is largely about big picture facilitation, project managers rely on the individuals at each stage of the translation process for micro-level feedback on performance, processes and potential improvements as well. For example, as a project manager, I look to translators for proactive feedback on localization issues and problems that have popped up during file preparation, such as character or symbol corruption, etc. I rely on internal DTP specialists for information on compatibility issues between desktop publishing file formats and CAT programs. I turn to the subject matter experts in quality control with questions on appropriate stylistic treatment of textual features, along with feedback on the translator’s performance, conformance to style guidelines, and how instructions could be improved. Maintaining open and constructive dialogue with all participants helps to ensure that any issues that arise are caught and resolved as quickly and smoothly as possible. Additionally, this ongoing positive collaboration amongst all stakeholders to overcome small challenges can have a big impact on overall work satisfaction and the realization of greater overall efficiencies as a result.

    Managing Expectations

    As I’ve learned the hard way, a deadline of “tomorrow” may mean September 1 to me, but on the other side of the globe (in China, for example), by the time a translator reads my email message, that same “tomorrow” deadline will mean September 2 to her, due to time zone differences. At its most basic, managing expectations is therefore about proactive, clear and explicit communication. Asking to receive a translation by tomorrow, Thursday, September 1 at 9:00 AM CST communicates my delivery expectations much more explicitly than “tomorrow” does. This communication style helps to ensure timely deliveries and facilitates project timeline planning as well.

    Managing expectations is also about showing respect to one’s partners in the collaborative translation process. If a translator emails me proactively to let me know that they will need some additional time to complete a project due to unforeseen issues, I manage the expectations of the other providers in that process by letting them know of changes to the timelines so that they can adjust their schedules accordingly. The same goes for scheduling any unexpected project reviews. If file updates or revisions are necessary, for example, I can alert the translator and request that they maintain a window of availability to respond to any questions or review changes to files. This proactive communication of changing project parameters within a dynamic environment in which multiple projects are being completed simultaneously by all providers in the process helps to ensure that resources are available as steps become available. Most importantly, this keeps projects on track for final delivery.

    The concept of managing expectations is also very important to the establishment of project scopes with one’s clients. The client may send over three files for translation, for example, while their request email only references two. Better to ask up front whether they have accidentally attached an extra file than to find out upon delivery that content has been translated that the client neither wanted nor needed. Conversations with the client surrounding project expectations may include more delicate topics as well, such as how rush turnarounds increase project costs and decrease quality, and how failure to make appropriate project investments up front is more likely to result in situations that require expensive and inefficient rework—and in which all losses will likely not be recoverable. Approaching these kinds of topics certainly requires delicacy, and sales representatives rely on their translation teams to provide informative and realistic feedback to clients on project parameters. While difficult, this sort of consultative approach has both long-term benefits with specific clients and for the profession as a whole. As clients become more aware of the intricacies of the translation process, they are more likely to approach that process more critically, with an understanding of the investments necessary to reach translation goals. And they’re more likely to return with their translation needs to those providers that have a positive track record for successfully managing expectations as well.


    Project managers follow multiple projects simultaneously of various types and with varied processes. On any given day, a project manager’s task list may include project launches, queries from the quality team for the translator, quotes, questions from clients on new languages or services, questions from management on new translation technology, post-production TM updates, etc. More experienced project managers have therefore established systems for tracking outstanding tasks, and they prioritize tasks based on the overall objective of project management: to keep projects moving through the production process.

    When I arrive to the office in the morning, I may have three high priority tasks that all need immediate attention. My general strategy will be to cross those items off my task list which I can complete most quickly, so that I can concentrate on any more time-consuming items. For example, not only does passing a translation delivery to the quality team take just a few minutes, but by making this pass right away, I’ve ensured that the project has not stalled between the translation and quality stages. I may also be working on finalizing a multi-language quote and initiating a new quote. While CAT analysis runs on the new quote, I may therefore follow up with any translators from whom I have not yet received a quote for my multi-language project. I’ll keep bouncing between the two projects until I am able to deliver the multi-language quote to the sales team, and send the processed files to the translator for the new project quote. This sort of multi-tasking means that process-orientation is an important skill for project management. While project managers’ focus is often monitoring the overall big picture status of projects, they must also be able to break down each stage into the individual actions that will move—sometimes inch—projects forward and follow through with those actions.

    Prioritizing, however, is also about understanding at what points in the process to make time investments, and a good rule of thumb is that front-end investments often yield the greatest efficiencies on back-end processes. For example, when launching a project, establishing clear instructions on the treatment of stylistic features (acronyms, proper nouns, measurements) will be beneficial at every stage of the project that follows. During translation, the translator won’t have to pause to make a treatment decision for each new stylistic feature they encounter. During quality review, the reviewer will have a translation product in which measurements and acronyms are treated consistently, so they will be able to review the content more quickly and request less changes. During DTP, less changes will be required, cutting down on project revisions during formatting. During post-production TM updates, less changes will need to be implemented into the bilingual file, cutting down on the time for that as well. By taking the time on the front end of the process to establish stylistic guidelines, the project manager has therefore generated time savings at every subsequent stage.

    Still, project managers are also realistic, and they understand that no matter how carefully a project has been planned, surprises are bound to pop up as new versions of programs become available and generate new bugs, as deadlines are inadvertently missed, and revisions to the source file are sent over mid-project. Ultimately, project managers are therefore flexible, and when problems arise, their immediate reaction is to establish plan(s) B (C, and potentially D, depending). Only after a project is back on track will they take the time to reflect on what went awry and what improvements can be made next time around to avoid similar issues.


    Overall, implementing the strategies outlined above can help project managers to achieve a positive domino effect within their organizations, in which happy translators lead to happy reviewers and desktop publishers, which leads to happy clients as project costs decrease, happy sales teams as clients request more work, and happy managers as a result. Beyond these skills, and as with any professional, a healthy amount of curiosity also goes a long way, as does identifying the individuals within your organization who work hard and have the know-how and sticking with them!

    Alaina Brantner is a Project, Vendor and TM Manager and a Spanish to English translator. She holds a Master of Arts in Translation and served as MATI Director from 2012 to 2016.

  • 08/09/2016 10:08 AM | Meghan Konkol

    Meet the MATI Board: Kristy Brown Lust

    MATI Director Kristy Brown Lust works from French to English. She holds a Master’s degree in Translation.

    Why did you decide to join MATI? I joined MATI for two reasons: First, I wanted to connect with other translation and interpreting professionals to build relationships so we can learn from each other, troubleshoot challenges, and celebrate successes. Second, I believe it’s important to improve the visibility of translation and interpretation professionals. We do crucial work that helps make the world a better place, and MATI gives us a strong collective voice.

    What is your favorite part of the workday? My favorite part of the day is when I’m in the midst of translating an interesting document.

    What do you do in your free time? In the summer, I can be found most often outside reading on my back porch.

    What are you most looking forward to about your participation on the MATI Board? I’m excited for the opportunity to meet more translators and interpreters and support them through strong communication and advocacy.

  • 08/09/2016 10:05 AM | Meghan Konkol

    Meet the MATI Board: Ghada Shakir

    MATI Director Ghada Shakir works between Arabic and English. She holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science and a Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Interpretation Studies.

    Why did you decide to join MATI? Passion, knowledge and expertise! Having worked in the field for so long and having had the the chance to work with multinational clients at different levels, I feel I am at a point where I can share this knowledge and expertise and pass it on to a new generation of translators and interpreters.

    What is your favorite part of the workday? Project management sums it up!

    What do you do in your free time? I’m a pretty active and social person, and in my free time, I enjoy long bike rides, stand up paddle boarding or just taking a stroll. I also enjoy cooking and entertaining friends and family.

    What are you most looking forward to about your participation on the MATI Board? Having a technical background, I look forward to bringing new ideas on how to stay connected and on the essential nature of having the technical know-how in today’s cyber world—ideas that will help increase productivity, minimize cost and ensure on-time delivery. 

  • 08/09/2016 10:00 AM | Meghan Konkol

    Meet the MATI Board: Thaís Passos

    MATI Director Thaís Passos works from English and Spanish to Brazilian Portuguese. She holds a Master of Arts in Latin American, Caribbean & Iberian Studies with a focus in Translation and a Master of Science in Agroecology, both from the University of Wisconsin. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Medicine from the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil.

    Why did you decide to join MATI?

    I joined MATI because it offered me a reliable and resourceful platform that helped better inform my decision to become a translator (after having worked as a veterinarian for fifteen years). At my first MATI conference, I started learning about the profession and what it takes to be a good translator, and I’ve been learning from it ever since.

    What is your favorite part of the workday?

    I enjoy looking at something I’ve just translated and realizing I’ve come up with elegant solutions for some challenging terms. Those moments allow me to connect more deeply with both my source language and my mother tongue.

    What do you do in your free time?

    I usually spend my free time being with my husband, meeting with friends, chatting online with my family (they live in Brazil), and walking/playing with my dog.

    What are you most looking forward to about your participation on the MATI Board?

    I am looking forward to getting to know the other board members better so that we can figure out how we best work together. Each committee has its own work dynamic, and I am excited to learn where I will fit.

  • 08/09/2016 9:57 AM | Meghan Konkol

    Meet the MATI Board: Amanda Bickel

    MATI Director Amanda Bickel is a French to English translator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

    Why did you decide to join MATI? I started translating very part-time around working other full time jobs that didn’t use any language skills. My freelance clients grew over time, requiring me to go down to part-time at my other job and to now finally quit my other job all together. Now that freelance translating is my primary employment, I wanted to join MATI to connect with other local linguists since the job can be a bit solitary at times.

    What is your favorite part of the workday? My favorite part is being able to take a break to eat, walk my dog, run an errand, prepare a meal for later at any time of the day.

    What do you do in your free time? I love my dog, Gunner, who I adopted last year. I also work a few hours per week as a consultant for a non-profit organization called Haiti Medical Education Project and sometimes serve at a local restaurant too to get out of the house and to get a good workout. I’m from Madison, so any other free time I have I tend to spend with family and friends. 

    What are you most looking forward to about your participation on the MATI Board? I want to take a stronger and more professional role in the translation world, particularly to promote translating as a profession. No one in my family has ever gotten a 4-year degree, so when I told them I wanted to major in French (without knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it), I could tell my family was disappointed in me. Now I am proud to say not only do I have a career that uses those skills, but one that allows me to work from home and raise a family (someday), pays great, and is growing exponentially! 

  • 08/09/2016 9:49 AM | Meghan Konkol

    Meet the MATI Board: Marina Ilari

    MATI Director Marina Ilari works in English and Spanish. She has a degree in Literary Translation from the Universidad del Museo Social Argentino.

    Why did you decide to join MATI? I wanted to meet colleagues in the area who work in the translation industry. I think it’s important to create professional relationships, so you are able to support and help one another in reaching your professional goals. I wanted to have the opportunity to learn about news in the industry and share new ideas and information.

    What is your favorite part of the workday? My favorite part of the workday is very early in the morning. My energy is replenished, and I enjoy answering emails and getting ready to start a new day of work. Every day is different in this profession, and I enjoy the new challenges.

    What do you do in your free time? Most of my free time is spent with my family. I have a son and a baby daughter, and I love to do activities with them. I’m a theater lover, so now that my son is old enough, I’m taking him to the theater and sharing that passion with him.

    What are you most looking forward to about your participation on the MATI Board? Meeting new colleagues and making friends that share the same interests as me.

  • 05/16/2016 7:16 PM | Alaina Brandt

    Reinvigorating ATA Chapters & Affiliates
    Series by MATI VP Joseph Wojowski

    This series was originally posted on Wojowski’s Translation Technology Blog.

    In his series of posts on reinvigorating ATA chapters and affiliates, MATI Vice President Joseph Wojowski speaks to how organizations can create value for members through a suite a services geared toward professional development, including continuing education, networking and spotlights on local resources. This series of posts is geared toward the Boards of Directors of ATA chapters and affiliates, and as such, MATI members are encouraged to share with their colleagues from around the states. Additionally, the series is also pertinent to our members, who can benefit from reading Wojowski’s advice and instructables on podcasts, websites and blogs to learn new ways to develop the online presence so important to marketing in a global economy.

    Attracting New Members to ATA

    I believe membership in the national association should be less of an issue, but in order to do that, we need to re-envision the role of ATA’s Chapters or Affiliates from a local organization of translators advancing professional development to ATA’s street team or ground crew. Read more.

    Recruiting New Members

    While they may not be set meetings with agenda or set topics of discussion, social events are pivotal to the feeling members get in regards to the organization as a whole. These do not need to be lavish banquets and grand galas; they can be as simple as a happy hour or dinner meetup. And while business may not be the goal of the party, when profession is the common ground, it inevitably comes up. Read more.

    The Website

    Creating a website can be a daunting task if you don’t know where to start. It can be as simple as a modified wordpress blog website and as complex as a professionally created site that is specifically designed to manage the affairs of an organization with members. Read more.

    The Blog

    A regularly updated, thoroughly tagged and categorized blog (if the site allows for it) is the main source of up-to-date content on your website. It, aside from social media updates from a plug-in, should be the most frequently changing page of content. Read more.

    Social Media

    People browsing Facebook aren’t looking for a blog article, that’s why Facebook Notes never really took off. At most, a Facebook post for an organization should have a maximum of 3-4 sentences and if those sentences can be accompanied by a photo or video, even better. Any longer than 3-4 sentences, and no one will read it. Read more.

    The Podcast

    Podcasting is a great way to offer varied content on your website and social media accounts. Aside from photos, audio/visual content is nice because it either gives the eyes a rest or gives one’s audience something to look at besides text for fifteen minutes to an hour. Read more.

    The Webinar

    [Webinars] essentially function as standalone presentation where the presenter and the attendees do not need to be in the same place. Because of that, no venue is needed and people do not need to allot travel time in accommodating the presentation. Read more.

    The Newsletter

    … in 2016, the hard copy chapter newsletter has gone the way of the printed chapter directory, or at least it should have by now. … A volunteer, board member or not, should not be spending hours upon hours laying out a monthly or quarterly newsletter. If it’s longer than three or four pages, no one is reading the whole thing. The newsletter is not worth that much of the volunteer’s time and the format should be optimized to take advantage of technology. Read more.

    The Conference

    Attendees may or may not take what the speakers have to share to heart, but the lasting impression of the conference, and the determining factor in whether or not the attendee attends in the future is the experience they had at the previous ones. Read more.

  • 04/25/2016 7:22 PM | Alaina Brandt

    Viterbo University’s Community Interpreting Certificate

    By Michelle Pinzl, Coordinator of the Community Interpreting Certificate at Viterbo University, in collaboration with students Ashley Rink, Katie Hawes and Katie Rubin

    An attractive program for undergrads and non-traditional students

    Since 2009, Viterbo University has offered a Community Interpreting Certificate designed with the purpose of putting trained bilingual individuals into the professional field of interpreting, a discipline that is growing at an exponential rate in the US and around the world.

    This certificate is an affordable path toward quality professional development, particularly for non-traditional students. Since the flat fee for this program is applied without discrimination based on state or country of residence, this certificate is an attractive opportunity for any resident of the US, including individuals with DACA status, as well as international populations looking for a reasonable way to receive higher education on interpreting in the United States.

    Graduates of this program are able to facilitate effective communication between English and Spanish speakers, providing full and equal access to community members in healthcare, educational, legal, business, and social settings. Interpreting becomes a question of social justice in many realms both domestically and internationally, and our students are enthusiastic about becoming catalysts for positive social change in the world.

    The course curriculum

    Now in its sixth year, the Community Interpreting Certificate at Viterbo University is a one-year, thirteen-credit program designed to help bilingual students become qualified Spanish/English community interpreters. Recently converted to an online format with an optional face-to-face classroom component one evening per week, this program consists of four consecutive interpreting courses and a 40-hour practicum in interpreting. The course descriptions are as follows:

    301—Interpreting Principles, 3 Cr.
    This course introduces students to principles of interpreting, including the understanding and knowledge of the three different modes of interpretation, its code of ethics, theoretical aspects of the discipline of interpretation and their implications in the interpreting process.

    444—Intercultural Competence and Ethics in Interpreting, 3 Cr.
    This course is structured to facilitate the observation, recognition, and assessment of facts and overall patterns of the contexts for the behavior and actions of individuals, families, and communities within and across cultures, in order to promote appreciation, respect for differences, and effective communication. This course will also explore the role of ethics and ethical behavior when depicted against one’s own cultural and or spiritual beliefs.

    456—Seminar for Interpreting in Healthcare and Social Settings, 3 Cr.
    This intensive and highly student-directed seminar covers different aspects of interpreting in healthcare and social settings as a profession, including the training needed, job opportunities and the various paths available to becoming a certified healthcare interpreter. It includes extensive practical work in the three modes of interpretation used in healthcare and social contexts with special emphasis on consecutive interpretation, the professional code of ethics, and professional development activities. The course aims to provide a panoramic overview of biomedical and social-services cultures in the U.S., the U.S. healthcare system and social programs, body systems and anatomy, and medical terminology.

    452—Seminar for Interpreting in Business and Legal Settings, 3 Cr.
    This seminar focuses on legal and business interpreting by examining the training needed for working in business and legal contexts, job opportunities and sources of work, standard business practices and free-lance status versus staff interpreting. The course will also explore different aspects of legal interpreting as it may overlap into other areas of community interpreting. Extensive practical work in the three modes of interpretation is employed with a particular emphasis in simultaneous interpreting. We also examine the professional code of ethics for legal interpreters in detail and provide grounding in basic legal and business language and procedure.

    481—Interpretation Practicum, 1 Cr.
    The interpretation practicum is designed to bridge the gap between theory and practice by offering students the opportunity to practice and consolidate the sight translation, consecutive and simultaneous interpretation strategies that they have been learning in their coursework. The practicum, tailored to reflect the specific needs and skills of the student, also plays a key role in preparing interpreters for future interpreting work in a variety of settings. In close collaboration with selected community partners, students engage in supervised field work, and integrate and reflect upon their educational, personal and professional experiences.

    Stepping into the profession

    The practicum experience that students carry out in this program proves to be one of the driving forces that propels students into the field of interpreting after graduation. For many students, the contact they make during their practicum opens the door to employment opportunity with our partners who include major hospitals and smaller clinics, courthouses, non-profit organizations, local farms and schools. In addition, some students choose to carry out their practicum on medical and social mission trips in places like Guatemala or Nicaragua in collaboration with organizations like Global Partners and Gundersen Health System.

    Students who enroll in the Community Interpreting Certificate are often able to share an array of professional experience with their classmates as practicing medical or legal professionals, farmers, teachers or even current interpreters. Since students can choose to do classes entirely online, this certificate is a flexible option for refining their skills.

    While many of our graduates have gone on to work as interpreters at hospitals and clinics, in non-profit organizations or as free-lance interpreters, others chose to continue in their current professions but with the additional interpreting training as an extra tool they can apply to their current work.  

    What current students have to say

    “Not only do these classes offer a practical and hands-on approach to education by giving students the opportunity to apply their knowledge of the Spanish language, it also encourages cross-disciplinary connections. This program has presented me with countless ways to rise to the challenge and to use my Spanish abilities to better the lives of others by fostering my skills as a language facilitator, careful listener and cultural advocate. In all, the interpreting minor offered through Viterbo has truly allowed me to grow as both a professional looking for jobs related to my degree in Spanish. I have learned that being confident and remembering the professional code of ethics is key to presenting oneself with poise in any situation.”
    –Ashley Rink, B.A. Major in Spanish, Minor in Interpreting

    “Our experiences throughout our coursework were ultimately challenged when we were presented with the opportunity to interpret in the university’s simulation lab for nursing students. In these labs, we collaborated with Viterbo’s nursing program, and we interpreted for the nurse and the Spanish-speaking patient simulator.”
    –Katie Hawes, International Logistics Coordinator at MacDonald & Owen Lumber Company, Interpreting Certificate Student
    “This certificate program has been a thrilling and mentally stimulating experience. Our classes are technically online but local students have chosen to meet in person each week to practice building skills. We have studied important social justice issues such as human trafficking and immigration which we will undoubtedly come across in the field. After graduation, I plan to pursue both my medical and then legal certification.  I would love to help serve the Latino population in my area, and the need is definitely growing.”
    –Katie Rubin, BIA Accredited Immigration Case Manager at Catholic Charities, Interpreting Certificate Student
    The future

    The Community Interpreting Certificate at Viterbo University continues to establish more community partners in the Midwest and across the nation to form highly-qualified professionals for this important field of work. The prospect of an ever more diversified and student population coming forward to serve as interpreters in our local and international communities provides the constant motivation to grow as a program and as an interpreting community.

    This article was written by Michelle Pinzl, Coordinator of the Community Interpreting Certificate at Viterbo University, in collaboration with Ashley Rink, Katie Hawes and Katie Rubin, current students of interpreting. For more information on Viterbo University’s Community Interpreting Certificate, please contact Michelle Pinzl at or visit

  • 03/09/2016 12:36 PM | Meghan Konkol

    ATA Chapters: Recruiting New Members

    By Joseph Wojowski, MATI Vice President

    This article is posted with permission from Wojowski’s Translation Technology blog. The article was originally posted on Wojowski’s blog on March 3, 2016.

    The second topic in this blog series is the hardest to discuss. It’s the one that quite honestly, no one wants to do and there are no easy ways of going about it. Still, there are a few different approaches to how you can go about recruiting new members. The main methods are school outreach, social events, and conference presence.

    School Outreach

    When done right, recruiting new members, and more importantly, recruiting new active members starts in the last half of high school until that person becomes a professional translator or interpreter. Hear me out on this.

    Every single semester, the universities of the world enroll students into their language and translation programs, and every single semester, students graduate from those same programs. If we were to attract them to the organization at that time and engage them as student members, they would presumably later graduate and become engaged individual members.

    I have visited my graduate school alma mater on several occasions to talk to some of the classes about the translation and interpretation industries. The students are always asking me about how to get started in the industry, and I take that opportunity to plug ATA and MATI, along with other resources. At the time I started doing that, I was not a member of ATA; I developed all my own materials and created my own PowerPoint slideshow and CAT tool demonstration and explanation, but here’s something that’s great about being in ATA, in case you don’t know about it. ATA’s School Outreach Program gives pointers on talking to different age groups about T&I, in addition to already-made presentations and other resources. And here’s one more great thing about this program: by participating, you can have the chance to attend the annual ATA conference for free! Every year, ATA’s School Outreach Program has a photo contest. All you have to do is submit a picture of yourself talking to students about translation and interpretation, and if your photo is chosen, you win free registration to the conference! For more information about ATA’s School Outreach Program, visit

    A suggestion might be to integrate the School Outreach Program into your own chapter. If the chapters and members reached out to schools in their areas and established a dialogue between the organization and the school, then the chapter would create an ongoing source of potential new members for both the chapter and by extension, the American Translators Association.


    Social Events

    What is any group without social events? While they may not be set meetings with agenda or set topics of discussion, social events are pivotal to the feeling members get in regards to the organization as a whole. These do not need to be lavish banquets and grand galas; they can be as simple as a happy hour or dinner meetup. And while business may not be the goal of the party, when profession is the common ground, it inevitably comes up.

    On January 16th of this year, MATI President and ATA Director Christina Green hosted a post-holiday association party at her home. The event was catered by Christina’s friend and chef, and a good number of T&I professionals gathered to see old colleagues and new and enjoy a Saturday afternoon together. Because we were all translators and/or interpreters, conversation gravitated toward the issues pressing our industries; and as I sat down at the dining room table with a plate of food, some attendees started talking about translator scammers. I was planning on letting them talk and simply exploiting my eavesdropping abilities (honed during my grad school days when I was studying phonetics) to see what they had to say, but another attendee had other plans for me. Earlier in the party, she had given me good feedback on the presentation I had given at MATI12 in September on this exact topic; so, she encouraged me to speak up and join the conversation. The topic of translator scammers evolved into data security and by the end of the conversation, everyone at the table was scared out of their minds because they had not thought of the online risks that exist for language services professionals. But that’s how these social events go: people start discussions, share knowledge and help each other out—the real goal of informal social events organized by the chapter. There were a few attendees that day who were debating joining MATI because they did not know if it was worth it. In the end, they told me that they then saw the value of membership because of that gathering and the open sharing of knowledge.

    Conference Presence

    Having a presence at conferences and having someone sitting at the chapter table is another way to bring people in to the organization. In Miami, I sat at the MATI table almost the entire time. In that time, I made friends with Victor from NCATA, hilariously annoyed an overly serious CIA representative, and got a handful of people to join MATI. Going to the conferences is not enough, sitting at the table (no matter how mundane it may sound) is important, but it’s only useful if you draw people to the table.

    What not to do

    There is one method of member recruiting that should not be done as it will stain the reputation of your organization and annoy the intended audience: directory email blasts. What you do not want to do is search a directory for translators in your area and send them emails, whether by email blast or direct email. This method will not draw translators to your organization; it will turn you into a spammer and will drive people away.

    The overarching theme behind recruiting new members is that you want them to see that you run an active, vibrant organization. Conversely, having an empty table at the conference and not having regular events sends the message that active member participation is not a high priority for your organization, when the goal of chapters and affiliates is to bring people together and help them to make meaningful connections.

    In next week’s article, we’ll examine the organization’s website: functionality, appearance, and user interaction.

    Joseph Wojowski is the Vice President of MATI; Director of Operations at Foreign Credits, Inc. in Des Plaines, IL; Chief Technology Officer at Morningstar Global Translations; and a Certified MemoQ Trainer.

  • 03/02/2016 5:19 PM | Alaina Brandt

    Attracting New Members to ATA

    By Joseph Wojowski, MATI Vice President

    This article is posted with permission from Wojowski’s Translation Technology blog. The article was originally posted on Wojowski’s blog on February 25, 2016.


    At last year’s ATA Conference in Miami, the recurring topic that was brought up was that of membership. How do we increase our numbers, how do we maintain the numbers we have, and how do we increase the number of active (voting) members? Clearly this is a subject of discussion for any organization, and crucial for any organization’s continued success, but I wonder if this is something the national association should be tasking itself with at all. In my honest opinion, I believe membership in the national association should be less of an issue, but in order to do that, we need to re-envision the role ATA's Chapters or Affiliates from a local organization of translators advancing local professional development to ATA’s street team or ground crew. I would argue, therefore, that the role of the regional chapters should be to be the manifestation and voice of the national association in their areas, in addition to recruiting new members into their own organizations and then funneling those new members up to the American Translators Association.


    As an executive board member of my own regional chapter of ATA, I care deeply for the Association and its chapters, divisions, and affiliates. I was heartbroken when, in Miami, I discussed the state of our Association with my roommate, Jeff. He told me that his local chapter was not very active and every time he tried to initiate action for attending the conferences as a group, or anything, he was always met with indifference or, “I’ll have to get back to you” from the board members. My heart went out to him; I felt his frustration. I believe that in any volunteer organization, if there is someone who is willing to take initiative and organize, that person should be welcomed with open arms and nurtured. Talking with others, I would ask questions like, what activities does your chapter provide in regards to opportunities for furthering professional development throughout the year? Many responded that they did not know. It seems to me that the chapters have started off on the right foot in establishing a network of T&I professionals, but they have not taken that a step further in offering their membership the best possible opportunities to further professional development; especially in regards to exploiting available technology that does not require a person to be physically present to attend a learning opportunity.


    So this is a topic I would like to submit to my fellow colleagues and this post will be the first in a series of blog posts aimed toward helping chapter leaders gain a fresh, renewed approach to being an ATA Chapter. In this nine-part blog series, I’ll break down the approach my own chapter (MATI) takes in executing regular chapter functions throughout the year. These are both functions that are dictated by being a chapter of ATA as well as ones that we’ve come up with on our own to engage our members and add value to membership.


    Part 1: All Hands on Deck!


    What happens when you talk to other translators about ATA? There are generally three types of responses: the first type of response is positive and the types of people who have this experience in ATA are those who are actively involved with it. These people are active in their chapters, sometimes also on the board of directors; they are division moderators, and they are National Association Board members. The second type are those whose response is negative and these people generally either have misplaced anger or take no part in the association, chapter, or division activities (their loss). The third and last type of response is the fringe response filled with craziness and conspiracy theories; these responses often come from people who had to put their foil hats on before responding to your question. It can be understood, therefore, that when it comes to lackluster organization activity, fault is grounded in a systemic problem that starts with apathy from the membership. The value of membership in chapters and the national association as a whole is only seen when you take an active role in the organization’s activities; you take away from your experience that which you put in.


    I submit for your consideration some responses to this poll on that asks the question, “Have you ever left a professional association?” The first comment I’d like to point out strikes hard.


        I joined the ATA “to see” two or three years ago. I didn’t invest anything except the fee for one year, and I didn’t get anything apart from a few scammers and their magazines which I never managed to read, so I didn’t renew the experience the year after. It was basically money down the drain, but as business expenses, so at least it wasn’t taxed. -Philippe


    This is a “case in point” scenario. This person, while he may not live in the US, did not bother to get involved, attend conferences or contribute to the community and therefore left after one year. At least he was responsible enough to acknowledge that he didn’t invest any more than the one-year membership, but that was why his experience was so lacking.


    Let’s look at another comment.


        I let my membership in the ATA lapse and don’t envision going back. The trade magazine for the most part is, well, rather 20th century, and their certification program is ridiculous, usually involving travel to another city, hard copy dictionaries that you must bring yourself, pen and paper, (although some keyboarded exams are now possible as I understand it). Furthermore, my clients don’t know or care if I am certified by the ATA. They care only about the quality of my work and my ability to meet deadlines. -J.E.


    “J.E.” hits a point that I take seriously and personally. As you will see in future posts, my main focus when approaching my MATI Board position is to continue modernizing the way it operates. Luckily, it was already pretty far along by the time I took up my post, but there are things that I’ve created or are currently in the works that will continue to bring the organization into the second (and subsequently, third) decade of this century. Modernization and up-to-date-ness of the appearance (branding) of the organization is key. Now, this issue is mainly the fault of the board. Decisions need to be made at the managing body level to make sure the organization portrays a modern brand and not something that has an outdated feel (ex. while it was modern at the time, no website should look like this one in 2016).


    These chapters of ATA are worth developing. The more time and effort we put into the organizations, the more valuable membership becomes. I often find myself taking a step back to put myself in the shoes of a non-member and thinking of things that would attract me to or turn me off from an organization. If you preach to the choir, you will only ever save the choir. In 2016, we find ourselves at veritable crossroads in the future of our association and we can either do what we’ve always done and perpetuate the same issues we have always had, or think about other colleagues and newer colleagues and what would draw them to our group.


    So let me leave you for the week with one last comment on that poll to consider along with the question, “Is this the lasting impact we want to leave with our members?


        “It seems a lot of professional associations entail a lot of money for very little benefit in return, except for the name-dropping.” -Natalie


    Joseph Wojowski is the Vice President of MATI; Director of Operations at Foreign Credits, Inc. in Des Plaines, IL; Chief Technology Officer at Morningstar Global Translations; and a Certified MemoQ Trainer.

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